Microsoft's Complete Longhorn Terminal Server Feature List

A lot of information about the new features of Terminal Server in Longhorn has come out over the past few weeks.

A lot of information about the new features of Terminal Server in Longhorn has come out over the past few weeks. In this article, I’ve collected, organized, and commented on all the new stuff.

It’s important to note that the information in this article is all public information from Microsoft. (i.e. it’s “real.”) This is NOT rumor or speculation. Most of this information came from last week’s Microsoft Technet Terminal Server chat and the Channel 9 Terminal Server Product Group video.

New Terminal Server Features for Windows Longhorn Server

First of all, Longhorn Server is still called “Longhorn” (for now). The “Vista” name only applies to the client version. The following new features have been publicly confirmed by Microsoft as being part of Longhorn.

Application Publishing with client-side file type associations. Microsoft is calling this “Remote Programs.” Basically you use a wizard on the Terminal Server to create a Remote Programs package for an executable. That package becomes a small (<100k) MSI file that you can then deploy to client machines running Windows XP or newer. (Terminal Server will not include any functionality for deploying these files. That’s up to you to do using Intellimirror, SMS, logon scripts, web portal, etc.) When an MSI is run on the client machine, the proper application shortcuts get installed into the Start Menu and the proper file-type associations are registered. From the user’s perspective, it appears as if the application was installed on their machine, although it’s really a shortcut to a remote seamless application running on a Terminal Server.

Seamless Windows. This is pretty self-explanatory. Seamless windows are obviously a big part of the whole “Remote Programs” experience. Microsoft’s seamless windows on Longhorn will have full local system tray integration, just like other vendors’ products do today.

A Terminal Server Gateway (TSG). This is like a Microsoft version of Citrix Secure Gateway. It’s a head-end gateway server that can provide SSL encryption for many back-end Terminal Servers. TSG will be an extension of the current RPC over HTTPS functionality that’s built into IIS6 and Exchange 2003. Basically, the TSG will allow RDP traffic to be encrypted with SSL and sent via HTTPS to an IIS server. That server will peel off the SSL wrapper and then transmit the RDP traffic to the back-end Citrix server. RDP 6 clients will have this functionality built-in.

Intelligent Avalon/WinFX Remoting. This is kind of a complex topic, and something I’ve written on before. Longhorn and Vista will have a new programming interface called WinFX. (WinFX includes the new presentation layer that was codenamed “Avalon.”) WinFX will do a lot of things, but in terms of Terminal Server, the biggest change will be how developers write their applications to deal with screen space. Applications will be able to more intelligently draw their windows and deal with available screen space. This will provide an opportunity for a big change for Terminal Server and RDP. In today’s version of RDP, the RDP protocol acts as a display driver, and the RDP client device receives whatever the server sends to its display driver. (This is what I call the “screen scraping”-based technology.) In Longhorn with WinFX, Microsoft is building a more intelligent RDP engine that can intelligently intercept and redirect raw WinFX calls (or “WinFX Primatives” to use Microsoft’s term) and send them down to the client where the client’s local WinFX engine can do the processing and display them. This has several advantages, including the fact that server resources and network utilization will be reduced and that the client device can have the “full” WinFX application experience even over a remote session. The downside is that a client device will have to be running WinFX (which will mean Windows Vista or Windows XP with the WinFX add-on) in order to experience this. Microsoft has said, however, that Longhorn’s RDP protocol will be smart enough to figure out whether the client device can display WinFX primitives. If so, that’s what it will get. If not, the Longhorn Terminal Server will render everything on the server and then scrape the screen and send the contents down to the client. Note that a WinFX client will NOT be required for seamless windows and published applications.

A Unified Management Console. Today there are several tools in Windows that you need to use to manage a Terminal Server. In Longhorn, Microsoft will combine these into a single, easier-to-user tool.

Redirection of Plug-n-Play devices with UDMF drivers. In Terminal Services for Longhorn, Microsoft is taking a different approach to client device redirection. Instead of trying to write a client redirection engine for every single type of client device (drives, ports, printers, etc.), Microsoft is writing a more generic redirection engine that can make almost any PnP device on the client available within a remote Terminal Server session. The catch is that the client device will need to have a UMDF (“user mode driver framework”) compliant drive. Does this mean that Terminal Server will support USB redirection? Generically you could say “yes,” Longhorn will have USB redirection, but the full answer is “yes” there will be USB redirection “if” the device has a UMDF driver. The other caveat is that Microsoft has not yet finalized the specific set of UMDF device classes that will be supported for redirection, so this won’t necessarily work for every single device.

Major Reworking of the Logon Process. This goes beyond Terminal Server a bit, but Longhorn server will have a much different user logon process (in terms of what happens under the hood). This means that logon speed should increase, and things like single-sign on should be available. No further details are available at this time.

Major Reworking of User Profiles. As everyone reading this is painfully aware, user profiles were never designed for a single user to be simultaneously logged in to multiple different computers. (This is primarily due to the fact that all registry settings are stored in a single, flat file.) According to Microsoft, “profiles in Longhorn are being updated to handle this situation,” although no further details are available at this time.

Per-User Licenses will be Tracked. As everyone knows, only per-device TS CALs are currently tracked and enforced in Windows Server 2003. The key about Longhorn is that out-of-the-gate, per-user licenses will be tracked, but not enforced. Microsoft will only “turn on” the enforcement once they verify that the tracking mechanism is working for everyone.

Web interface. Microsoft will not provide a full web interface like Citrix. However, they will provide a sample site with some ActiveX controls that will integrate with the new Remote Programs (their application publishing) feature. You should be able to use this as a template to develop a full remote programs-based portal. I would imagine that the community will develop some kind of free portal fairly quickly after Longhorn’s release.

RDP 6. The current version of the RDP protocol is 5.2. All these new features in Longhorn will bump that up to RDP 6, but a Longhorn Terminal Server will still be able to have users connect from any older platform and the protocol will negotiate its capabilities down as needed.

A Refined Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM). This should help you control rogue applications by limiting the amount of memory or processor they take. WSRM is currently licensed only for the Enterprise Edition of Windows Server. There’s no word yet on how that will apply in Longhorn. The bottom line, though, is that WSRM is being updated and (among the refinements) it will work better in Terminal Server environments.

WMI Interface for Everything. This is something that Microsoft is really pushing. Their goal is to make 100% of Terminal Server configuration options exposed via WMI. This means that you’ll be able to script anything.

RDP Virtual Channel Tuning. Longhorn will also have a mechanism to tune the specific RDP virtual channels. (This is something that you could do with Citrix since PS3.) This will let you control how much bandwidth individual virtual channels consume.

Beyond Longhorn

In addition to all the new Terminal Server features that will be part of Longhorn, there are many features that will (or might?) be coming after Longhorn. The following features are features that when asked about them, Microsoft answered, “we’re looking at this, but after Longhorn.” Note that Microsoft is not necessarily ever going to release any of these features—these are simply things that they’re looking into. Such features include:

  • Better integration with SMS / Systems Center
  • The ability to move Terminal Server sessions between servers
  • Application isolation
  • Better accessibility in remote sessions
  • Multiple session shadowing

Features that Microsoft has no plans to Build

Finally, there are some features that people have suggests that Microsoft has publicly said that they have no plans to implement or that they’re not planning on looking into. These features include:

  • No plans for any improvement on Terminal Server load-balancing
  • No plans to improve the session directory (except for adding IPv6 support)
  • No plans to improve the management of clusters of servers
  • No plans to speed up 3D applications
  • No plans to change licensing into a concurrent model (mainly because they want licensing
  • to be consistent across all their products)
  • No plans for any major architectural changes to RDP or to change how it works in low-bandwidth / high-latency scenarios.
  • No plans for 2-way audio
  • No plans for ink support in remote sessions
  • No plans for per-session IP addresses
  • No plans for multi-monitor support (although some developers at MS really want this, so maybe this will change)
  • No plans to change the way Terminal Server printing works

Other Interesting Tidbits from Microsoft about the future of Terminal Server

We learned a few other things over the past few weeks that are interesting but that don’t really fit into one of the other sections.

Schedule. The “R2” update for Windows Server 2003 will ship later this year, but it will have no additional Terminal Server functionality. (Of course readers of this site already knew that.) There will be a communications foundation update to Server 2003 in the second half of 2006 (when Vista ships) to ensure that Server 2003 can do what it needs to do to work with Vista. The next major version of Windows Server “Longhorn” will ship in 2007.

Bear Paw. “Bear Paw” was the codename for a project that included several updates to Terminal Server. Bear Paw is not a current project. Some Bear Paw components came out a few months ago with Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003 (such as the fallback printer driver support). Other elements of Bear Paw (such as the application publishing and seamless windows) are being rolled into Longhorn.

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Hi Brian,
I am not absolutely sure, but as far as I understand it will be neccessary to rewrite my existing application using the new programming interface "WinFX" to be able to use WinFX remoting.

So we will see a situation similar to the introduction of WIN32 or .NET, when it took years until applications were finally rewritten. But that this is the third requirement (except LH server and Vista Client) to use this freaky little new feature called WinFX Remoting?

So I assume, it will take some time, before we see applications like SAP being ported to WinFX...

Regards Josef
I would imagine you could simply wrap any win32 app with a winfx window and send that???
I see that MS is providing support to manipulate and tune the virtual RDP channels. This is awesome!!! and is a must for us since we have low bandwidth sites that experience latency due to large bursty print and video packets.

In the "Features that Microsoft has no plans to Build", the following statement contradicts this new functionality though....

"No plans for any major architectural changes to RDP or to change how it works in low-bandwidth / high-latency scenarios."

sorry to be an anal IT geek here.....just got excited about the virtual channel tuning and then was confused with the contradicting statement.

consider us thread junkies your proof readers Brian....thread editors if you will!


thread junkie #2699

I think these two statements can both be true. The ability to tune the bandwidth usage of specific virtual channels is very different than changing how the protocol behaves in low bandwidth or high latency environments. The latter would specify how the protocol behaves when it sees slow environments, and that is not going to change. The tuning of virtual channels just affects at what point RDP would start to choke.

Yes, this is true. Application interfaces will need to be rewritten to make full use of WinFX. And for those that aren't, then good ole' fashioned screen scraping will work until the apps are rewritten.

I guess in theory you could, although that wouldn't really buy you anything... That would just produce a WinFX widget containing screen-scraped content. It doesn't matter though, because Longhorn will work the "old" way for old apps no problem.

Brian, a few corrections:

1. You state "Longhorn will have full local system tray integration, just like other vendors’ products do today". Currently other vendors have taskbar integration. I'm not aware that anyone has system tray integration.

2. You state "things like single-sign on should be available". I quote from your transcript of the Microsoft Chat:
Q: Will Microsoft TS supports single signon?
A: This is a feature that we are looking at for a future release :-)
I take that to mean that SSO will not be provided in Longhorn. Indeed, you may notice viewing the video that Tad Brockway kept logging in explicitly each and every time he launched a remote application. IMO the lack of SSO is a significant detractor for the use of a pure MS TS solution.

3. Web interface - you correctly quote MS but I don't think what they provide can truly be called a "Web interface", or even the basis for one. Creating a page with a static list of remote apps should be quit doable, but creating a dynamic list, customized for each user would be very difficult/impossible.

Bottom line is, even after all the enhancements I don't believe an enterprise solution based on Longhorn alone would be any more viable than an enterprise solution built on WTS 2003 alone.
yes, I would have to agree.....they are two different things.
my bad.........apologies.
Not and obtain any bennefit. The WinFx graphics help only occurs when the graphics are re-written as vectors instead of bitmaps. In the end, WinFx bitmaps still take (at least) as much space on the wire and will have to be rendered at the server.
To a post to follow up :

1) You state "Longhorn will have full local system tray integration, just like other vendors’ products do today". Currently other vendors have taskbar integration. I'm not aware that anyone has system tray integration.

This is correct. Any items that appear on the System Tray of the Terminal Server appear on the system tray of the client machine, when a published application is used. This work in the current version if running Citrix Presentation Server 3 and Windows Server 2003.
Thanks for the comments. However,

1. Citrix has full system tray intergration today. If I run Outlook as a published app, I will get that little outlook icon in my system tray.

2. The chat had conflicting information about SSO in Longhorn. (Do a search for "SSO" and you'll see what I mean..) A lot is changing in the logon area of Longhorn outside of what the TS team is doing. My guess is that you'll be able to use Kerberos for SSO, so if your client device is in the same domain as the server then you'll be able to pass a Kerberos ticket instead of user creds. (I have no info on this.. that's just my guess.)

3. As for the web interface, we'll have to wait and see. Remember that they're talking about deploying remote apps via Intellimirror or something which would mean that they're integrated with group policy. I don't think it would be too hard to have a web interface that pulls from that same list.

Given how forthright the Microsoft representatives have been in the chat, I would think that if they plan to add Kerberos support to TS on Longhorn they would mention it explicitly. Still, I guess we'll have to wait and see. Shouldn't take longer than two years ...
Brian, most of your comments about what was shown in the Public Channel9 Webcast are true. We (Christa, Matt, Claudio, Bernhard & I)worked with the most current build of Longhorn Server at the MVP Global Summit and poked and proded every feature. I can't say which, due to NDA, but at least one of the items listed under "Features that Microsoft has no plans to Build" is in the current build of Longhorn Server as of 10/01/2005. Unless someone else spills the beans, you'll all have to speculate until the first beta is released. :)

The build we used was somewhat rough (to be expected for such an early build), but the features were very cool. With about 1.5+ years of dev time to go, Longhorn should rock when it's released.

Patrick Rouse
Microsoft MVP - Terminal Server
Cool man.. Sorry I couldn't make it out there.

So Christa is an MVP? I thought she worked for Microsoft?
This new protocol sounds suspiciously like the X protocol used by unix/Linux for ca. 20 years.
There is no mention of whether Longhorn will include the feature in Citrix whereby only the original PC can connect to a disconnected session, which is a must-have feature in our kiosk-like application where all of our users are logged on automatically via the ICA/RDP connection, and instead must sign on to the application once it launches. We've had situations where users get someone elses freshly disconencted session, which is a huge security breakdown.
Yes--I was a contractor but decided not to go FTE at this time. Because I was not an FTE, I maintained my MVP status, which made a few things a bit funny but overall worked well.

Sorry you couldn't make it out--we had a good time.

Longhorn Standard Edition will probably include Session Directory as well as some kind of Process Management, although we've also asked for real RDP load balancing and better resource management.
Where the lines will be drawn between Standard & Enterprise Editions when it comes to TS Features is yet to be determined. In my opinion Standard edition should have all TS related features, otherwise people will just buy the standard version and a better 3rd party add-on for less money than EE costs.
Do I think TS should have every bell & whistle, no.  Do I think they should have the ones the majority of people use, yes.
Having been the Sys Admin for a few companies and implementing both Terminal Server and Citrix I (along with my users and bosses) sure would be very interested in the multi-monitor support if this ever comes about.

Tim @ the US Courts
Tim,  what do you mean by multi-monitor support?  as far as running multi monitors on the client?  if so, this is functioning now with Citrix.  I have run into a couple issues with seamless windows with certain apps, but it hasn't been anything we couldn't resolve.
We use Citrix Presentation manager 4 and max number of monitors, resolution and color depth is limited by the maximum graphic memory per session. On you will see in note CTX781561 a table containing all possible combinations of # monitors, resolution and color depth. The max graphic memory per session is limited to 8 MB (by RDP ?).
Do you know if in RDP v6 included in Longhorn the max graphic memory is increased ?
We have operator desks with 4 monitors at 1920x1200 that we need to run through Citrix.
Will Longhorn support this ?
Yes, I know if sessions hosted by Vista or Longhorn and using a new client support multiple monitors and higher resolution, however due to NDA I can't give any details.  Either way Longhorn won't be released for over a year...
As more video intense apps and sites come into play, any updates to TS to handle playing videos better?

In the article over it stands that microsoft are not going to do anything about the load balancing in the server 2008 version.

But i just read in the microsoft technet that they have this in beta3...

What settings have been added or changed in Windows Server "Longhorn"?

Group Policy settings

The following Group Policy setting has been added for TS Session Broker:

Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Terminal Services\Terminal Server\TS Session Broker\TS Session Broker Load Balancing

The possible values are:

Enabled: If you enable this policy setting, TS Session Broker will redirect users who do not have an existing session to the terminal server in the farm with the fewest sessions. Redirection behavior for users with existing sessions will not be affected. If the server is configured to use TS Session Broker, users who have an existing session will be redirected to the terminal server where their session exists.

Disabled: If you disable this policy setting, users who do not have an existing session will log on to the terminal server that they first connect to.

Not configured: If you do not configure this policy setting, TS Session Broker load balancing is not specified at the Group Policy level. In this case, you can configure the terminal server to participate in TS Session Broker load balancing by using the Terminal Services Configuration tool or the Terminal Services WMI provider. By default, this policy setting is not configured.

I jsut install 2008 last 2 weeks and have been tested a lot regarding TS. Frankly speaking, as a IT technologies, I am looking at the benefits of the customer. We may compare between Citrix and W2K8 TS features but at the end of the day, benefits is more to customers.
Let me ask this, with all the features available in Citrix, how many implementation that we fully utilized all the features. I am not sure market outside Malaysia, but in Malaysia, all they use is application sharing and printing. Rarely they use all the features. The other concern is cost. How many licenses need to buy in order to fullfill all the users requirement.
After testing W2K8, I think, finally MS came out with good product similiar to MS Exchange 2003 with SP2. With Exchange 2003, customers no need to use Blackberry technology. All customer need was simplicity. That all matter. Virtualization concept and application sharing may reduce cost termendiously because hardware purchases can be reduce. ON top of that, MS has explore NAP that increase security and self-healing NTFS to reduce downtime and probably total cost of ownership.

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